On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Jessica Barry and Nicole Collins. They are members of Smash Patriarchy: An Action Team (or SPAAT), a feminist group that has been part of a broader resurgence in feminist action over the last year in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The initial catalyst for SPAAT to come together was something quite specific: A number of women with long-time connections of one sort or another to the city’s music scene were becoming increasingly frustrated at how unwelcoming a space it was for them. Though there was certainly a deep reservoir of concern about things like how venues handle harassment and assault, the trigger was actually a summer of successive music festivals in St. John’s with very, very few women musicians. As the final festival of the year approached — with its all-dude line-up — something sparked, and in a few short weeks, a collection of mostly-women who didn’t even really know each other very well had planned their own show for the same night featuring a number of woman-fronted bands, produced a zine exploring the many barriers faced by women in the music scene, and begun to build an organization.
From there, though they still have a keen interest in music and culture, the group has expanded its focus. When they found out a nightclub was bringing a highly prominent online misogynist to the city for a public event, they started a petition, did media work, and planned a counter-event. When a firefighter in a nearby town was subjected to sexual harassment and then ostracized when she spoke out, they organized a number of events and actions to support her. When the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary released a public service announcement about date rape that was blatant victim-blaming, they took to social media, did a bunch of interviews, and mobilized a firestorm of criticism, and within 24 hours the police had agreed to completely change their messaging. One of their current priorities is developing resources and guidelines around sexual assault and harassment in community contexts — what venues should be doing to create safer spaces, and how communities can respond when something happens. And they are part of a collection of feminist groups in the city that are putting together a major conference that will be happening in August. And after that — well, they’re hoping to draw some new members into their core group between now and the fall, and they plan to set the next phase of their agenda from there.
To learn more about Smash Patriarchy: An Action Team, click here.
Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.
Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.